Doctor Who meets Ursula Le Guin: The Beast Below

Attention Conservation Notice: Burblings of joy ’bout the second episode of the last season of Doctor Who

Steven Moffat is a great writer, fascinated with questions of time, memory and responsibility (the Big Themes). In the second episode of the last series of Doctor Who he excelled even himself. Setting the action on the Starship UK in the 30ish century, he explores the concept of the scapegoat, the unspeakable thing that must not be named or remembered, but MUST be acknowledged.

Think Ursula Le Guin’s must-read short story “The Ones Who Walk away from Omelas” with the necessary extra twist.

Highlights- Matt Smith’s anger and disgust at the dilemma in front of him.
The resolution – no hand-waving, no gibberish “reverse the polarity of the neutron flow”, just brains and compassion at work. And a deeply unsettling “whoops, we may have been wearing these war-goggles a bit long” indictment of 28th century humans. Can’t think where they’ll have learned such shitty behaviour…

Other Dwight Towers posts on similar topics
Smug rituals of nauseating phoniness about Australia’s history

See Also
Rene Girard and the Scapegoat

About dwighttowers

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2 Responses to Doctor Who meets Ursula Le Guin: The Beast Below

  1. Phil K says:

    with you in this one Dwight. So much packed into, er, ‘family’ entertainment. I really want to get the sprogs into it but No.1 is already nightmare prone…. time to look at box set bargains…. BTW – dont, whatever you do, follow the link from your Wiki link to the Doctor wikiquotes – a productivity wormhole awaits…

  2. dwighttowers says:

    Thanks for the warning on productivity wormholes. I suppose I shouldn’t tell you about tvtropes then?

    Re: family entertainment. I think Moffat has been very influenced by the Pertwee/early Baker era, where they did the bug-eyed monsters but under the surface there was some very serious “popular education” going on. Two writers of the old Who specifically spring to mind
    – Malcolm Hulke (who wrote “The Silurians” (the intelligent reptiles who put themselves in hibernation and then woke up millions of years later to find an infestation of hairless apes that needed sorting out) and also “The Dinosaur Invasion” (the idea of a spaceship where the passengers are showed a brain-washing film and the spaceship is not what it seems etc), and also the great Robert Holmes (the Ark in Space, Deadly Assassin, Pyramids of Mars etc etc).
    There were subtle echoes of Ark in Space in The Beast Below – the stuff on humans on a long journey in space and the legacy of humans’ cruelty and stupidity.

    Not that I wasted my youth or anything…

    Sitting down today and watching “Doctor Who and the Deadly Assassin”, one of the best shows ever, written by Robert Holmes…

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Malcolm_Hulke

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Robert_Holmes_%28scriptwriter%29
    with this great quote-
    On 11 February 1977, the Daily Express published an interview with Holmes by Jean Rook under the title “Who do you think you are, scaring my innocent child?”, in which Holmes said “Parents would be terribly irresponsible to leave a six-year-old to watch it alone. It’s geared to the intelligent fourteen-year-old, and I wouldn’t let any child under ten see it.”

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